Monday, June 03, 2013

Dark Entertainment

The following post has been inspired by a recent visit to the University of Central Lancashire’s Institute for Dark Tourism Research (iDTR) 2013 Symposium, which was held at Inholland University of Applied Science, in Diemen, a suburb of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The symposium featured a range of excellent presentations exploring a variety of issues in dark tourism research. 

Death is a part of life, and in certain societies, particularly religious ones, it is a sacred subject that may be prohibited from discussion, and certainly not under any circumstances associated with entertainment. As (overall) societies become more secular, subjects such as death that were previously taboo are becoming more open for discussion (Stone, 2013). Even in a secular society, one of the greatest responsible challenges faced by the entertainment industries is their sensitive representation of actual human tragedy, particularly death and suffering. This is principally the case where audience members may have a personal connection or resonance with something tragic that has occurred, and where commodification of these occurrences may be perceived as being ghoulish. The modern day entertainment industry has to some extent de-sensitised audiences to death and suffering through their continual portrayal of these through the media, in particular dramatisation and fiction in television, films and books. However dark entertainment is not about fiction, and its responsible provision should consider that when tragic or dark occurrences have taken place, audience members may be genuinely affected by interaction with entertainment based upon that occurrence.

Dark entertainment has been happening for millennia, consider Roman Gladiators fighting to the death or slaughtering animals in the name of entertainment for crowds of cheering spectators, or public executions that drew spectators from far and wide. The very notion that in this day and age dark entertainment could and should be responsible itself presents a paradox, when what is generating an audience activity is (typically) human suffering in the first place. However, dark entertainment is created to meet a demand in interest around tragic occurrences that have happened ‘in the past’, and not for the specific purpose of entertaining an audience by causing additional suffering or prolonging a tragic event.

There is a general misconception that entertainment is something that should be happy or have a positive resonance. The true meaning of entertainment is much deeper and involves audience captivation with something that emotionally resonates with that audience. Not all emotions are positive or happy ones, and many are the exact opposite. Dark entertainment through: the provision of media products; the staging of events; or the development of facilities through preservation and commodification of sites that have become visitor attractions, due to their association with tragedy, death or suffering, is perhaps one of the most controversial and contested areas within the entertainment industries.

Dark entertainment is a part of dark leisure, which according to Rojek (2000) describes leisure choices made by individuals, which go against what may be seen as traditional societal norms, and that may disturb other members of society. Spracklen (2013) states that dark leisure rejects the mainstream and transgresses norms and values. Some may consider providers of, and audience participants in dark entertainment as being deviant. Williams (2009) defined leisure activities that “violates criminal and noncriminal moral norms” (p.208) as deviant leisure, however it should be noted in secular society that those society members who would consider participants in dark entertainment as deviants are in a minority (Stone, 2013).

Like all forms of industry created entertainment, the vast majority of dark entertainment is media borne, be that through broadcast media, the Internet or print media. Dark media based upon a tragic occurrence reduces in volume and changes in focus over time. At the time of a dark occurrence, dark media is news focused, which subsides as time passes and is replaced by ‘special’ outputs that are dedicated to the occurrence explaining it in greater detail. Following this, documentaries are often made, and memorial outputs produced. The volume of these depends on the scale of the dark occurrence and the number of people who have been affected by it. Over time dark occurrences may be dramatized leading to outputs that may incorporate fictitious elements.

An example of the above in practice would be the 26th December, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which triggered a tsunami that had tragic effects in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, The Maldives and the East Coast of Africa, leading to deaths in the region of 280,000 (BBC, 2005b). In the immediate aftermath, news bulletins were filled with footage taken by tourists as well as interviews with survivors and experts. Eventually extended bulletins began to be produced, and documentaries made such as ‘Seconds from Disaster’ Season 3, Episode 13 ‘Asian Tsunami’ and PBS NOVA’s ‘Wave That Shook The World’. Alongside this, countless amounts of literature were produced in global newspaper and magazine pages as well as online, from a human interest, environmental and socio-political perspective. Numerous factual books about the tsunami have been published, including: ‘The Asian Tsunami 2004: When Disaster Struck (2007); and ‘The Asian Tsunami: Aid and Reconstruction After a Disaster’ (2010). In 2012, ‘The Impossible’ - the first big-screen movie featuring a dramatized account of actual events which occurred in the tsunami was released, almost 8 years after the original tragedy.

Dark media needs to be accurate and factual, after the 2005 floods in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina, various media outlets promoted stories about rapes, pedophilia, sniper attacks and murders, all of which proved to be false (Devine, 2005). There are also boundaries that should be considered in relation to taste and legality, particularly in relation to showing images of the dead, television channel Al-Jazeera faced heavy criticism for showing the dead bodies of British and US serviceman in Iraq, in its news bulletins, something which was possibly in breach of the Geneva Convention (Kafala, 2003).

Dark entertainment is closely interlinked with dark tourism through the creation of visitor attractions or staging of events to mark or commemorate dark occurrences. Tarlow (2005) defines dark tourism as “visitations to places where tragedies or historically noteworthy death has occurred and that continue to impact our lives” similarly Stone (2006, p.146) defines dark tourism as “the act of travel to sites associated with death, suffering and the seemingly macabre”. The relationship between dark leisure, dark entertainment and dark tourism is highlighted in figure 1 (below).
Figure 1 – Dark leisure, dark entertainment and dark tourism.

Dark tourism involves people travelling to destinations or events specifically because of their connection with a historic dark occurrence, for example the small town of Lockerbie in Scotland, is synonymous with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which was flying from London Heathrow to New York John F. Kennedy Airport on the 21st December, 1988. The aircraft was a Boeing 747, which crashed after being bombed by terrorists, with much of the wreckage from the crash falling on Lockerbie. In total the tragedy took the lives of 270 people, making it the worst terrorist atrocity on British soil to date. Today dark tourists visit Lockerbie for a variety of reasons, particularly to see the town, and to visit memorials, which were created as a focal point for grievers, respect payers, pilgrims and those interested by the event. The Lockerbie Air Disaster Memorial and Garden of Remembrance was created at Dryfesdale Cemetery near the town (see Figure 2, below), and is the main memorial to the disaster, the site also now has a visitor centre. As well as this there is a memorial in Lockerbie Roman Catholic Church, where a plaque lists the names of all 270 victims, there is also a book of remembrance at the town’s library and a second book at nearby Tundergarth Church. Lockerbie Town Hall has a stained-glass window, which depicts flags of the 21 countries whose citizens lost their lives in the disaster.

Figure 2 – The Lockerbie Air Disaster Memorial and Garden of Remembrance.

Van Maanen (2013) stated that heritage belongs to those who claim it and identify with it. This is certainly true in Lockerbie where the air disaster is a major historic event, and has become a firm part of the cultural heritage of the town of Lockerbie, in that it continues to shape and influence the town’s present character. Considering this, figure 3 (below), denotes dark tourism as a subset of heritage tourism, which Ryan (1991) classified as a part of cultural tourism. Figure 3 also demonstrates a range of types of dark tourism, base upon the work of Lennon and Foley (2000) and Sharpley and Stone (2009), all of which may have an association with a dark historic occurrence or occurrences.

Figure 3 – Types of Dark Tourism.

Figure 3 highlights the key sub-divisions of dark tourism, these are explained as follows:

·   Battlefield and conflict tourism: the visitation of sites associated with war, where battles or significant events may have occurred, e.g. the battlefields of Lexington and Concord, USA, where the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War took place.

·   Crime tourism: the visitation of sites that are synonymous with crime and criminality, e.g. mafia tourism in Sicily, Italy.

·   Disaster tourism: the visitation of sites that have been the locations of a disaster, either natural or man-made, e.g. people visiting New Orleans after the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

·   Funerary tourism: this is the visitation of events and attractions relating to funerals, e.g. the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in London, UK, which took place on 6th September, 1997 attracted over a million people along the route of the funeral cortege (BBC, 2005a).

·   Memorial tourism: this is the visitation specifically to memorials or graves to those who have been the victims of tragic events, e.g. the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery, The Netherlands.

·   Thanatourism: this is the visitation of places that denote or have a relationship with death, e.g. the Bodyworlds exhibition created by Gunter von Hagens.

Figure 4 (below) demonstrates three dark visitor attractions: (top) the entrance to the former concentration camp known as Aushwitz 2, at Birkenau, Poland; (bottom left) war graves at the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery in The Netherlands; and (bottom right) Mdina Dungeons, Malta, where visitors may pretend torture the human exhibits.

Figure 4 – Dark visitor attractions

The creation of visitor attractions or the preservation of dark sites, such as the Auschwitz-Birkenauconcentration camp in Poland, may cause disdain amongst critics who view these as being in bad taste, deviant or immoral (Stone, 2013), and preserving a terrible crime of the past. However, such facilities also serve to educate future generations about such atrocities, in the hope that they will never be repeated.

Dark tourism is not a universally liked or agreeable term, particularly amongst stakeholders of locations that are synonymous with tragic occurrences, who may view the term dark tourism as being sensationalist or ghoulish. Research by Werdler (2013) noted that some attractions considered the ‘dark’ label as “bad for marketing”, however he also noted that dark tourism was a more accepted term amongst dark visitor attractions which have a ‘thrill’ element to them, such as the ‘Dungeon’ attractions operated by Merlin Entertainment. Neering (2013) stated that the Heligoland Tourism board were unhappy with the term dark tourism (Heligoland is a small German island, which during the Second World War was carpet bombed by the British, and was the location of the World’s largest non-nuclear explosion). It would seem that there is disagreement between academia and industry as to when it is appropriate to use the ‘dark’ term, but from an academic perspective the ‘dark’ label works well to identify the association of a leisure form with a historic tragic occurrence.

Stone (2013) noted that the length of time that has passed between a dark occurrence happening and the perceived connection that an audience has with a dark occurrence impacts upon the motivations of consumers of dark tourism, the same may be said of dark entertainment. This is demonstrated by the matrix in Figure 5 (below), which demonstrates that those who have or perceive that they have a personal connection with a dark occurrence are more likely to be grievers in the time after the occurrence has happened, however as time passes, they and others may become pilgrims who visit sites or attend events in respect of, and memorial to those who have been victims of a dark occurrence. Those with less of a personal connection to a dark occurrence may be attracted to dark entertainment through an interest or fascination with what has occurred, and as time passes and a dark occurrence becomes more historic, they and others may wish to learn more about it, why it happened, how it happened, where it happened, who it happened to, and what the longer term impacts of the dark occurrence have been. In order to help people understand this, over time dark occurrences may be commodified into dark entertainment. 

Figure 5 – Motivation matrix of consumers of dark entertainment

Figure 5 can be contextualized using the examples of serial Killers ‘Jack the Ripper’, and Peter Sutcliffe (who became branded through the media as the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’). Both were / are notorious serial killers who operated in the UK and targeted women. Jack the Ripper was active in the late 19th Century, and the Yorkshire Ripper was active from 1975 to 1980. Jack the Ripper has become something of a legend, and there is a great demand for commodified entertainment products around the crimes he committed, and where there is demand, there is supply of products. These include websites such as the JTR Forums - http://www.jtrforums.com which has the sensationalist tag line ‘THE place to be for all things Ripper’, to ‘Ripper Tours’ - guided tours around the Whitechapel area of East London, to visit sites that are synonymous with the Jack the Ripper murders.

The crimes of the Yorkshire Ripper are still in many people’s minds. Peter Sutcliffe is still alive, and so are many people who are family members or friends of Sutcliffe’s victims. As these crimes were committed more recently, and with a greater level of perceived connection with them, perhaps through not wanting to appear ghoulish, there is a lesser demand for entertainment products relating to them. To match this, there has been less inclination to commodify the Yorkshire Ripper crimes into entertainment products such as guided tours of sites relating to murders by the Yorkshire Ripper. Stone (2006) states that there is amongst western society’s an “apparent contemporary fascination with death, real or fictional, media inspired or otherwise” (p.147). It is likely that at some point in the future, possibly after the death of Peter Sutcliffe, something which itself will be well publicized, a renewed interest in his crimes may cause demand to create a supply of new audience attracting Yorkshire Ripper products.

Responsible operation of dark attractions, should consider the entire spectrum of visitors to them and not only ensure that all visitors are catered for, but that visitors are educated as to what constitutes appropriate behaviour at such sites. Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp attracts visitors from a wide variety of locations and cultures. It has been a personal observation of mine on a visit to Aushwitz-Birkenau in 2013, that a group of teenagers were singing and laughing as they walked amongst other visitors – is this appropriate behaviour at a site where an estimated 1.1 million people were killed?

The use of tour guides to personally explain to groups of visitors how they are expected to behave is a method which has been adopted successfully at the villages of Albreda and Juffureh in The Gambia. Here tour guides explain to visitors before arrival at these locations how they are expected to behave in terms of interaction with villagers and also rules around dressing modestly so as not to cause offence. Albreda and Juffureh are considered dark locations, due to their historic association with the slave trade, Albreda today features a slavery museum.

In summary, the extremely diverse entertainment industries do not only provide output that evokes positive emotions amongst audience members. Tragic occurrences which involve death and suffering are also highlighted and demonstrated through the media, the staging of live events and the creation of visitor attractions. This is dark entertainment which is a part of dark leisure and closely linked with dark tourism, which is more acceptable in a secular society, but still causes conflict where it may be seen as being in poor taste, or where the labeling of something as being ‘dark’ may be considered ghoulish. Consumers of dark entertainment have a range of motivations, which are affected by their personal connection with a tragic occurrence, and the length of time that has passed after that occurrence. Dark entertainment products are often supplied to meet audience demands or needs for them. Diverse audiences require sensitive management in order for the dark entertainment experience not to cause harm to other audience members and stakeholder groups.

Further iDTR information and resources on dark tourism can be found here: http://www.dark-tourism.org.uk and on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/darktourism.

An edited version of the above text will appear in a chapter on 'Responsible Entertainment Management' in my next book - Entertainment Management: Towards Best Practice, which will be published by CABI towards the end of this year.



References

  • British Broadcasting Corporation (2005a) 1997: Diana’s funeral watched by millions. [Internet] URL available from: [Accessed 1st July, 2012].
  • British Broadcasting Corporation (2005b) Indonesia quake toll jumps again. [Internet] URL available from: < http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4204385.stm> [Accessed 1st June, 2013].
  • Devine, M. (2005) New Orleans fights on after low blows. [Internet] URL available from: [Accessed 1st June, 2013].
  • Kafala, T. (2003) Al-Jazeera: News channel in the news. [Internet] URL available from: [Accessed 1st June, 2013].
  • Lennon, J. and Foley, N. (2000) Dark tourism. Andover, Cengage Learning EMEA.
  • Neering, A. (2013) Current dark tourism research in Germany. The iDTR International Dark Tourism Symposium 2013. InHolland University of Applied Science, Diemen, Amsterdam. 21st May, 2013.
  • Rojek, C. (2000) Leisure and culture. London, Sage.
  • Ryan, C. (1991) Recreational tourism: a social science perspective. London, Routledge.
  • Sharpley, R. and Stone, P.R. (2009) The darker side of travel. The theory and practice of dark tourism. Bristol, Channel View Publications.
  • Spracklen, K. (2013) Leisure, sports & society. Basingstoke, Palgrave-Macmillan.
  • Stone, P.R. (2006) A dark tourism spectrum: Towards a typology of death and macabre related tourist sites, attractions and exhibitions. Tourism, Vol. 54, No. 2, Pp. 145 – 160.
  • Stone, P.R. (2013) Deviance, dark tourism & ‘dark leisure’: (Re)configuring morality in contemporary society. The iDTR International Dark Tourism Symposium 2013. InHolland University of Applied Science, Diemen, Amsterdam. 21st May, 2013.
  • Stone, P.R. & Sharpley, R. (2013) Deviance, dark tourism and ‘dark leisure’: Towards a (re)configuration of morality and the taboo in secular society”. In Elkington, S & Gammon, S. (Eds.) Contemporary perspectives in leisure. Abingdon, Routledge.
  • Tarlow, P. E. (2005) Dark tourism: The appealing ‘dark side’ of tourism and more. Pp. 45 - 78 in Novelli, M. (ed.) (2005) Niche tourism – contemporary issues, trends and cases. Oxford, Butterworth-Heinemann.
  • Urry, J. (2003) Global complexity. Hoboken, New Jersey, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Van Maanen, E. (2013) What do you do with a World Heritage site that nobody wants? The iDTR International Dark Tourism Symposium 2013. InHolland University of Applied Science, Diemen, Amsterdam. 21st May, 2013.
  • Werdler, K. (2013) InHolland dark tourism research. The iDTR International Dark Tourism Symposium 2013. InHolland University of Applied Science, Diemen, Amsterdam. 21st May, 2013.
  • Williams, D.J. (2009) Deviant Leisure: Rethinking “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” Leisure Sciences, Issue 31, Pp. 207 – 213.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

WANTED! A Vocational University with Ambitions to Expand into Germany or Europe


It has been a long time since I updated this blog, in the scheme of life and other writing commitments, priorities have to be taken, and a new book with CABI (Entertainment Management: Towards Best Practice) that I am providing several chapters for as well as co-editing chapters from other contributors with my former colleague Dr Ben Walmsley (now at the University of Leeds), has for the past 12 months taken over most of my other writing and research commitments.

I am however, taking a short break from that to make a plea on behalf of a superb educational institution located in the beautiful baroque city of Dresden, in the state of Saxony in the East of Germany. If you are unsure as to where Dresden is, then Google Maps can certainly show you, but as a rough guideline, it is roughly equidistant between the German capital city of Berlin, and the Czech capital city of Prague, and has both road and rail links to both cities. Dresden also has an excellent international airport.

Since 2006 I have been working with a vocational business school in Dresden called Europäische Wirtschafts Und Sprachenakademie Dresden, which is abbreviated to ‘EWS Dresden’, and is part of a larger EWS Group of colleges, who are a collective of private vocational business and language schools with branches in several German cities, including Dresden, Leipzig, Köln and Rostock, historically going back to 1908. The Dresden branch has been in operation since 1991.

EWS Dresden is located adjacent to Dresden Neustadt railway station within the area of central Dresden known as the Neustadt or ‘new town’. The school specialises in teaching vocational courses including Events Management, Office and Administration Management, Business and Management, Project Management and Marketing Management. Students at the school participate in 2 ½ year courses, (which includes a substantive work placement), successful completion of their course entitles the students to a ‘State Certificate’. At Leeds Metropolitan University, we have mapped the learning outcomes, course content and student assessment of the state certificate against our own curriculum, and have found them to be equivalent to Higher Education levels 4 and 5 – in other words, equivalent to either a HigherNational Diploma (HND) or a Foundation Degree (FD). Many students learn languages alongside their chosen courses, and through my own experience of teaching at EWS, many students are multi-lingual. English is taught to the equivalent of IELTS Level 5.

The school has a specialist and dedicated staff team including academic, management and support staff, excellent buildings with teaching rooms that are as good as any university I have been to, a very modern IT setup, and strict rules around attendance. The net result of this is that the school produces highly proficient students who go on to become, valued members of society both in Germany and around the world. At Leeds Metropolitan University we have a progression agreement with EWS Dresden (along with other EWS branches), which allows their graduates to ‘top-up’ at level 6, on selected Degree courses, to get a Bachelor’s Degree. Historically these have allowed EWS students to ‘top-up’ on various Business and Language degrees, various Events Management degrees and the BA (Hons) Entertainment Management, (specifically for those students who have studied Events Management at EWS). The general standard of work produced by EWS top-up students at Leeds Metropolitan University, has been higher than the average student body, with the majority of EWS top-up students achieving good first class honours (1st) or high upper seconds (2:1).


Typical EWS Dresden class room

For the past 4 years, EWS Dresden students have organised a major international conference called the ‘EWS Congress’, to which several hundred students from various EWS branches, as well as students from other European educational institutions, particularly the Katholieke Hogeschool Limburg (KHLim) attend. The conferences have included a number of speakers from both education and industry, and I have had the privilege to participate in these conferences on three occasions. I can confirm that these student organised conferences have been absolutely as professional as any conference which I have ever attended – this is testimony to both the calibre and discipline instilled within the student body, as well as the mentoring of students by dedicated and specialist EWS staff.

EWS Students take the stage at the Messe Dresden for the EWS Congress

My reason for making this post, and singing the praises of EWS Dresden, it’s staff, programmes and students is that due to political reasons, which are outside of the control of EWS Dresden and indeed every other private business school or college in the German state of Saxony. Is that EWS Dresden and every other Saxon private vocational school is faced with closure, due to a change in political will of the Saxon government, who are withdrawing funding to such institutions from 2014.

The Saxon government, has a seemingly unrealistic vision of how vocational courses should be structured in terms of the balance of formal educational and work experience elements, making it virtually impossible for vocational schools to adhere to the Saxon ideal of roughly 50% study and 50% work throughout the course. Work placements by their very nature are often ad-hoc, many are seasonal and a number are dependent on events taking place at particular times of year, therefore maintaining a continual 50 / 50 balance throughout the year is virtually impossible for a number of vocational schools to realistically manage.

One ugly truth is that there is a need for more lower skilled workers in Saxony, so removing vocational courses and encouraging more teenagers to take low-skilled, low-paid jobs instead of continuing in education will help fill a shortage of low-skilled workers in the East of Germany. This is of course an unsustainable stance for the Saxon government to take, and will lead to a future skills shortage in this region. Another ugly truth is that there is an inherenet snobbery in ‘the German establishment’ around the value of vocational courses against more traditional university disciplines, despite indications that suggest students who participate in vocational degrees particularly with work placements, are more likely to prosper in their future jobs and careers, than those who take un-vocational ‘classic’ courses of study, see here.

So who can help EWS Dresden? Do you represent or know of a University ANYWHERE in the world, who has ambitions to expand into the German educational market? Would your university or another university benefit from opening a ‘branch’ or school within Dresden? The staff at EWS Dresden would be eminently capable of delivering a range of vocational educational courses to the specifications required by another university, certainly up to Higher Education level 5 and even beyond up to full Bachelors Degree level or further.

A model currently employed at Prague College in the Czech Republic, is that the college wholly delivers a range of qualifications on behalf of Teeside University, in the UK, and for tuition fees which are considerably less than what they are in the UK, in effect becoming a Czech branch of Teeside University. Would your university, or another university that you are aware of benefit from such a partnership using the ready-made facilities that are already in place at EWS Dresden?

If you are interested in exploring such a partnership, please contact me either through this blog, or at stuart-moss@lineone.net , and I will gladly put you in contact with the School’s management team.

This School really does deserve to continue, and could in future become a valued partner to (or part of) a vocational higher education institution who has ambitions to expand into the German Higher Education market, or the European Higher Education Market.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Leeds Clubber Survey 2012

Following on from the extremely useful and successful Leeds Clubber Survey 2010, I have just launched the Leeds Clubber Survey 2012. It is my intention from this point onwards to undertake a similar survey every two years targeted towards those who visit nightclubs in the City of Leeds. The results from the survey will be published on this blog and used in educational materials.

This year's survey will be online until 31st July 2012, and intends (amongst other things) to ascertain the following:

  • How often and when people go clubbing in Leeds
  • What motivates people to go clubbing
  • How effective various promotional mediums are towards clubbers
  • What the spending habits are of clubbers in Leeds
  • What the drinking habits are of clubbers in Leeds
  • What the attitudes are of clubbers in Leeds towards alcohol and illegal drugs
  • Whether clubbers in Leeds have concerns around safety
  • How demographically, the habits and attitudes of clubbers in Leeds differs
The Leeds Clubber Survey 2012 can be found at www.leedsclubbersurvey.co.uk .

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The British Music Industry: Challenges and Adaption in the Twenty-First Century

I recently had the pleasure of giving a lecture at the Hochschule für Musik Franz Liszt in Weimar, Germany, at the Musikwirtschaft 2.0 - neue Perspektiven für die Musik conference on the subject of the current state of, and challenges faced by the British music industry. This blog post consists of a narrative that I have written to accompany my presentation, which is available on Slideshare here.


The origins of music

Music has been around for as long as the earth has existed. Sounds created by nature such as howling wind, animal cry, and rustling grasses all make a sound, and whilst the sound they make is not composed, organised and arranged with intended structure and rhythm, natural sounds are nature's music. Man's first attempt at music began with either basic percussion from objects that were beaten or by orally produced sounds, before of course a language was developed. The onset of language lead to chanting, dance, storytelling and celebration, all of which may have involved man-made music. We only need look at traditional tribal societies that exist in the world today, whose lives have barely been impacted upon by industrialisation, to see how our ancestors may have once lived, and incorporated music into their everyday lives.

Jump forward several thousand years, and those talented enough to make music and song were much in demand as entertainers, many of whom were employed by the wealthy as their own personal entertainers, or who worked for themselves earning small amounts for impromptu public performances. At some point in the 17th Century the first promoters appeared, who would find talented musicians, and then give them a stage on which to perform. The audiences that were attracted would pay a fee to watch the musicians, which was divided between promoter, artist and sometimes the owner of the stage or venue. The word 'entrepreneur' was first used to describe these promoters.

Up until the late 19th Century the only music that could be heard was live music, then in 1877 Thomas Edison developed the technology that would eventually spawn the recorded music industry. Edison developed the 'flat disc' recording device that would eventually become the record.


The twentieth-century

The modern day music industry was not formally recognised until the first half of the twentieth century, when companies emerged that had the finances to be able to record, promote and distribute records by popular musicians. At the beginning of the twentieth-century the music genres that existed were largely classical in nature, or were derivatives of religious music, and traditional 'folk song'. In the USA, Broadway shows helped to spawn new emergent genres such as 'Broadway' and 'Ragtime'.

Throughout the twentieth-century more genres emerged, as musical influences from immigration and other cultures blended with existing genres and helped to spawn newly recognised forms of music including blues, calypso, jazz, scat and swing. Blues influences, along with folk and religious music helped to spawn country and western, and eventually from that rock and roll emerged in the 1950s along with the first emergent youth cultures - young people who wanted to listen to modern music, and not dress like their parents. This generation of young people strived to carve out a 'modern' identity for themselves, and music was a common ground that helped them achieve this.

In Britain, the 'Teddy Boys' became a dominant cultural movement as rock and roll and the rebelliousness that it ensconced were seen by the 'establishment' as perverting the nation's youth. Since the 1950s, various youth cultures and with them associated music genres have emerged, some have lasted the duration and others haven't. The hippies and the mods were prevalent in the 1960s and the 1970s, yet today are rarely seen, although from them, new fashions and youth cultures emerged including heavy metal, punk, post-punk indie, the goth scene and and Brit-pop.


Some music genres of the twentieth century. Source: Moss and Henderson (2009)

In terms of musically creatives decades, the period from the early 1960s until the late 1980s spawned hundreds of popular music genres, with the 1980s being by far the most musically creative decade in the world's history. The creativeness of the 1980s was helped by the proliferation of technology that could be used to make electronic music, as well as the creation of hip hop in the late 1970s and from this a plethora of hip hop sub-genres emerged in the 1980s, including electro funk, hardcore hip hop and gangsta rap.

Economist Joseph Schumpeter coined the phrase 'creative destruction' to describe the phenomenon of new technologies that make old ones obsolete, this is something that we have seen throughout the music industry, as new musical media formats have lead to the decline of older formats. The most typical examples include records, cassette tapes, compact discs and now MP3s (there are numerous unmentioned formats that emerged between these formats - does anyone remember the MiniDisc? - which itself was creatively destroyed by the CD-R).

Creative destruction of music media formats. Source: Henderson (2009)


The rise of media-less digital formats

Now in the second decade of the twenty-first century, the loss of physical music media in favour of media-less digital format the MP3 is more than apparent, particularly to music labels (who used to be known as record labels). The relative ease of copying, distributing, transferring and playing good quality MP3s has left the labels in a position whereby not only are they losing money through various forms of music piracy, which is not only organised 'criminal' piracy such as counterfeiting, but increasingly the more 'innocent' home piracy including file sharing, and converting YouTube videos to MP3s, which is the modern day equivalent of recording a song from the radio onto a cassette tape. Although the difference between recording something onto a cassette tape and converting a YouTube video into an MP3 is that the quality of the converted MP3 is often as good as one that could be legally purchased - from a consumer's perspective the question is often: Why bother paying for something that I can get exactly the same for free?

This type of music piracy is having a profound impact upon the British music industry particularly. The UK has long been established as a music 'power-house' globally, according to the British Phonographic Institute (BPI) (2010a) the UK is the second largest producer of music in the world after the USA, and in 2007, 2008 and 2009 the biggest selling albums in the world were by British artists. However, in 2011 the UK was demoted into 4th place behind Germany as a music market. This has been largely blamed upon a drop in music spend as British consumers downloaded an estimated 1.2 billion tracks in 2010 (BPI, 2010b). In 2010 spend on music in Britain fell by 8%, single sales rose by 6%, album sales fell by 7% and overall music spend was at it's lowest rate since 1997 (Mintel, 2011). In terms of legal downloads, the value of downloaded albums in the UK is still only 17.5% of the overall total value of album sales, but for singles a staggering 98.7% of sales are achieved through downloads (ibid). By September 2010, 500 million singles had been legally downloaded in the UK since legal downloading began, however in 2010 alone 1.2 billion singles worth £984 million were illegally downloaded in the UK (BPI, 2010b). The average price of a single download track in the UK is 82p, and there are 13 million available tracks to download from 67 legal download services, which is more than any other country (ibid).


The Digital Economy Act (2010)

Tackling illegal downloads in a meaningful and effective way is proving to be problematic for the British government, who are keen to make suggestions and recommendations to a variety of those bodies with stakeholder involvement in the 'illegal download chain' including search engines, Internet service providers (ISPs), advertisers and credit card companies (BBC, 2011b). But so far the British government have really only 'talked up' what should happen, and there has been little in terms of legal enforcement, this is despite the passing into law of the Digital Economy Act (2010), which puts an onus on ISPs to take action against their customers who are suspected of illegally downloading and uploading copyright material. The Digital Economy Act (2010) aims to primarily 'increase the ease of tracking down and suing persistent copyright infringers, and after a minimum of one year permit the introduction of "technical measures" to reduce the quality of, or potentially terminate, those infringers' Internet connections' (Wikipedia, 2011).

British ISPs are currently in the process of mounting a legal challenge against the British government over the Digital Economy Act, as they do not see themselves as being responsible for the actions of their customers. To use various analogies: from the drinks industry, pubs and supermarkets are not punished if one of their customers gets drunk and then commits a crime; manufacturers of spray paint are not punished if a customer uses their product to write graffiti; and car manufacturers are not punished if one of their customers drives faster than the speed limit. Therefore British ISPs do not feel that it is fair that they should be treat differently, although the major difference is in this case, that theft is not an issue in any of the aforementioned analogies like it is with Internet piracy.


The case of ACS:Law

In terms of civil lawsuits against illegal downloaders, the case of ACS:Law in Great Britain attracted a great deal of negative publicity against those trying to bring private prosecutions against downloaders on behalf of music labels. ACS:Law would send letters to suspected peer-to-peer file sharers demanding a fee for the copyright they had infringed, those who did not pay were threatened with being taken to court. ACS:Law were accused in the media of targeting innocents and people who did not know what they were doing along with genuine Internet pirates. The tactic adopted by ACS:Law caused a flood of complaints against the firm to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and a denial of service attack on their website by the hacking division of the group Anonymous. During the denial of service attack a 350mb back-up of the site was downloaded and later released online as a torrent. The file contained the names and addresses of thousands of suspected downloaders, including those who were suspected of downloading pornography. ACS:Law was fined by the Information Commissioner for its lax online security and not encrypting the file. The company has since ceased to exist.


Media memories

Before physical media formats were lost, and before we had numerous music television channels and the Internet, buying music would present the listener / fan with an opportunity to not only see pictures of the artist, that may not be available elsewhere, but also to read the song lyrics, to read about the artist, to read the words of the artist, and to get to 'know' them in a way that listening to the music alone does not allow. Does anyone remember innovations such as: gatefold sleeves; poster sleeves; free sew on clothing patches; picture discs; and box sets? The internet now means that we have all the information we need right at our fingertips, so lyrics, images and artist 'stories' are all only a few clicks away. Of course the downside to all of these innovative 'freebies' that came with physical media formats was the issue of how to keep them pristine, and the problem of where to store them all? Going physical media format-less helped to de-clutter our bedrooms, garages, lofts and lives, but it also reduced the fan experience to that of listener only - at the point of artist engagement, this is the 'problem' with MP3s, and it is something that the music labels have been very slow to react to (considering the MP3 has been around for over a decade).


The music labels

The music labels have suffered, many have ceased to exist and the major labels have consolidated through takeover and merger into 'the big four': EMI; Sony Music; Universal Music Group; and Warner Music Group. None of these are British owned, and all of them have well documented cases of making losses in recent years. In addition to the big four, there are also numerous independent labels that are not affiliated to the big four, that are generally regarded as being more 'artist centered'. Many independents have been set up by genuine fans of music genres or by artists themselves. The British independent music labels are still heavily reliant on the major labels for the storage and distribution of their physical products, and this has recently highlighted how fragile to forces in the external environment that independent labels have become. The 2010 London riots saw an arson attack on a storage warehouse owned by Sony, which contained CDs and vinyl from a number of independent labels. The entire physical stock for some labels was lost in that one fire, and for some independents the cost of replacing the stock was too great a financial burden to bare. Thus that one fire alone has transformed the business models of some British independent labels forever from physical media to online formats only (BBC, 2011a).


Media-less consumption

Online music downloads and consumption can also bring disadvantages to the listener experience. Many albums are compiled by artists in much the same way that a curator puts together an exhibition. Tracks on albums are often designed to be played in a particular order, for the album to have the impact upon the listener that the artist intended. 'Cherry picking' MP3s and using 'shuffle' functions on MP3 players has changed for many listeners the true album experience. As a prime example Public Enemy's award-winning second album 'It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back' provides an introduction, a main body and an ending and is a prime example of an album that takes the listener on a journey through music, culture, politics and knowledge. The impact of this album would not be so if the tracks were played in any other order than what they had been intended. The same can be said for EVERY 'mix' album where one tracks fades or mixes into the next, putting a mix album on random is almost pointless, yet it is something that we with MP3 players do.


The changing music supply chain

The change in the way we buy music has impacted upon the music supply chain, which once only had physical media to contend with, which required physical storage, distribution and retail outlets. The reduction in physical media has meant a reduction in required goods and services all along the traditional music supply chain. First to go were the retailers. In the 1980s when home stereos first became truly affordable and when the boom in home entertainment devices was truly felt, it would have been virtually impossible to imagine that in 20 or 30 years time that record shops would barely exist on our high streets any more. But a stark reality of going media-less is that physical shops are no longer necessary to retail music, and with fewer shops, there are fewer distributors.

The traditional music supply chain. Source: Moss and Henderson (2009).

In my hometown of Barnsley in South Yorkshire, UK, we had at least seven busy independent record shops that did not belong to major chains (Andy's Records, EGS, Scene and Heard, Michaels, Neals, Bradley's and Casa Disco) as well as major 'chain' record shops Our Price and MVC, along with WH Smiths, Boots, Woolworths, GT News and several music stalls on the market, all of which sold, records, tapes and eventually CDs. Being a music fan in 1980s Barnsley was a treat. For a small town, the wide choice that consumers' had, meant that competition was fierce, offers were plentiful and it was easy to shop around to get the best deals. In terms of offers, EGS used to sell packs of ten seven inch singles, or five twelve inch singles for £1. They were always wrapped up, so you only ever knew what was on the front and back of the pack. The rest was down to luck, more often that not the other singles would be nothing the buyer particularly wanted, but I personally would always give them a go. I did happen upon the odd gem, including several singles that are now worth over £50 each, (so I'm glad I kept them). Although happy memories of my youth have caused me to digress slightly, the point in this story and the inclusion of Barnsley as an 'example town' is to highlight how the British high street has forever changed. First to disappear were the independents, Our Price has survived after being taken over by HMV. Record shops became less profitable as record and cassette sales declined, as did eventually CD sales, particularly when the first CD-Rs appeared in the late 1990s, and when supermarkets began to retail music, although supermarkets tend to only sell 'popular' titles. Survival meant that dedicated music shops needed to expand their product portfolio, many simply couldn't afford to do this and instead closed.

I moved away from Barnsley in the mid 1990s, but I'll never forget that awful, empty, sick feeling in my stomach as I returned in 2003 and walked back through Peel Square towards the partially white-washed windows of Casa Disco, with a 'Closed' sign on the door, and ripped posters hanging from the walls behind. Memories of speedily flicking through nearly a metre of 12 inch singles are almost all that is now left of that 'golden' era of music retail, as well of course as the titles that I've held onto. But even I, an ardent music fan wasn't blameless in the demise of High Street music retail. I had bought a PC, I was running Windows 2000 (or whatever it was then), my PC was connected to my amplifier and I had a CD-R...along with a growing collection of home-made discs, mostly made from illegally downloaded MP3s. MP3 technology was still very young to most people then, but for many who still lurked on the peripheries outside of the mainstream, it was quickly becoming the norm, and it wouldn't take long before our 'geeky' musical discovery would soon become accepted by the general public. This was down to a variety of factors, including more affordable home computers, FRIACO, the onset of broadband Internet, Napster, then numerous imitators such as iMesh, cheap and free software that played MP3s such as Music Match Jukebox and the first MP3 player made by Rio, before Apple Inc. jumped on the bandwagon, took the MP3 music format, and made it their own (well almost).

The late Steve Jobs was a visionary, and his dream of a music supply chain that would be wholly electronic, and wholly online was realised when the iPod and iTunes came to fruition. With these tools Apple would (in theory) be able to maintain control of distribution and supply of music to consumers. The reality I suspect, is that the majority of iPod owners still have a majority of illegally obtained tracks upon their iPods, although slowly this is changing, and other online retailers of music are increasingly eroding Apple's dominant position, as more people choose to buy rather than illegally download. Britain's current loss of music revenue to illegal downloaders will in history become regarded as an 'era of piracy' rather than the future norm, as industry pressure combined with a decrease in tolerance towards piracy from the recession-hit public (themselves possibly at risk of job loss due to piracy) will eventually persuade the government to Police illegal downloading in the same way that both Germany and France have done. When this finally happens, Britain will surely return to it's position as the world's third largest music market.


The legal download music supply chain. Source: Moss and Henderson (2009)

The legal download music supply chain is one that includes aggregators, these are specialist service providers who assign each individual music track a UPC (the equivalent of a bar code) and upload tracks for retail onto the major music retail websites such as iTunes and Amazon. The continued growth in download sales is likely to lead to growth in the number of retailers and aggregators, in the same way that it has lead to decline in physical shops and distributors.

Advances in music producing software and the proliferation of the Internet into the music supply chain means that in future there is likely to be continued growth in the number of independent labels and the artists that are signed to them. This will not only give the artists more control over their output, it should also lead to greater financial reward per sold track.


Live music in the UK

Live music consumption in the UK has continued to grow and looks set to continue to grow, particularly with the proposed scrapping of entertainment licenses for venues that have a capacity of under 5,000. Larger-scale live music across all the UK attracts at least 7.7m attendances by domestic and overseas (5%) music tourists, who contribute £864m per year to the UK economy (equivalent to 19,700 full-time jobs) (UK Music, 2011).

The picture is slightly different for the UK music festival market which has been dominated by the major festivals, including Glastonbury, Reading / Leeds, T in the Park and the Download festival. Where there are innovators, there are imitators, and this is also true of the UK music festival scene, which has in recent years seen vast growth in the number of 'local' festivals in towns and cities around the UK. In 2010 festival income was up 20% on 2009, but ticket sales were much slower in 2011, with 31 music festivals being cancelled, and 40 major festivals selling tickets at less than face value. It is predicted that their will be a 'culling' of local festivals in 2012 (BBC Newsbeat, 2011).

Another factor impacting upon the UK music festival scene is the rise of foreign (predominantly European) festivals, which combined with budget airline prices can offer cash-strapped festival goers both a music festival and a holiday in the sun. Example European festivals of this nature that are proving increasingly popular to the British market include Benicassim in Spain, and Outlook, Soundwave and Hideout all of which are in Croatia.


The future

So what is the future for digital media-less formats? The MP3 as a stand alone entity, will be around for sometime yet, but creative destruction will occur, and eventually something 'better' will come along. As to exactly what that will be, it is difficult to say, although maybe Icelandic artist Björk has offered us an insight into how things might possibly go. Her latest album offers more than just a listener experience alone, yet it is wholly digital and format-less. Her album 'Biophilia' is available to download as a deluxe edition for the iPad / iPhone, and for the fan it provides an interactive multimedia experience, including song, narration, graphics, videos, and even guest appearances by naturalist David Attenborough. In effect Biophilia has become the world's first 'app' based album, with 'updates' scheduled to be released in future. Using the app model, could be advantageous for fans, as it has the potential to offer updates that include additional material, that did not come packaged with the original album, including new exclusive remixes, artwork, photographs, videos, and even Christmas / Birthday cards (iTunes does have your date of birth, right?). From a commercial perspective, updates could also include exclusive tour news, links to merchandise, and links to new songs / albums...and if you allow the artist or band's app to send push notifications, then you could even get 'you heard it here first' type news and messages.

Apple's dominant position as the leading supplier of media-less music will not last in Britain, Amazon have made steady inroads by both undercutting Apple on retail price and also providing unprotected downloads that can be played and copied onto any device. Amazon's market share will continue to increase in Britain as slowly illegal downloaders convert to paying customers, but seek a bargain price and the freedom to do as they please with their purchases.

An as yet unrealised media-less music retailing 'beast' is likely to take the shape and name of the all-powerful Google. It must surely be only a matter of time before Google take advantage of their all-seeing internet eye, and instead of sending those searching for music to iTunes, send customers to their own download store. There will of course be legal issues raised, relating to the fairness of competition, but eventually things will work out and Google will not only take advantage of the millions of mobile phones running on an Android operating system, but also those billions of daily Google and YouTube searches for artists, bands, songs and music videos. Instead of directing customers to iTunes, surely these would serve Google better pointing to 'Google Music' or whatever they will eventually call it. When this happens the MP3 price wars will truly begin, and the major labels will once again be left shaking their heads as they agree to sell their music to retailers for even lower amounts. If and when this does happen, it's almost a guaranteed certainty that YouTube will develop technologies to hinder those trying to convert the audio on videos into MP3s, although something will circumvent that eventually and the 'cat and mouse' game will continue between supplier and those after a 'freebie'.

The intelligent marketing machine that is Facebook knows our 'likes', it knows what we discuss online and it is doing an increasingly more efficient job of targeting us with tailored advertising. It seems like only a matter of time before Facebook also steps into music retail proper, either through its own music retail division, or through further strategic linkages with Microsoft, who are as yet unmentioned, but surely too must be considering their own online music store presence to rival iTunes. Facebook have already formed a strategic alliance with Spotify and alternative business models could become less about ownership and more about access. Going one step beyond Spotify, rather than paying a subscription based service, a listener may pay for permanent access to an MP3 that is stored on a server elsewhere rather than on the listener's device. Of course this will only be truly viable once Internet connectivity is truly global at truly broadband speed, and at a price that is affordable to the majority of consumers. Access to music rather than ownership of it could be offered at a reduced pricing level to make it more attractive to the consumer.

Subscription based business models may seem like an option to major labels with gargantuan back catalogues of tracks, as it allows them to 'sweat' these assets, but for the artist they give very little, and for new and upcoming artists, the prospect of earning around a third of a penny per track play, or less than £30 for 1,000 album plays is hardly an attractive proposition. Unless Spotify re-evaluates it's distribution of wealth it is likely to become an online vault of back catalogue tracks only, as new artists quite rightly demand a fair price for their creations, and invoke contract clauses with major labels keeping them away from Spotify, or sign to independent labels (including their own labels) that do not have a relationship with Spotify.

The MP3 has been heralded as the 'killer' of the modern day music label, but this is a narrow perspective, taken by those who are not visionary enough to adapt and explore the possibilities of what could occur with media-less formats. The pattern of creative destruction will almost certainly continue, but with the increase of 'gadgetisation' into our everyday lives, and the proliferation of devices that can offer a full multi-media experience as well as web connectivity, will an audio experience alone be enough to entertain audiences of the future? Will we want a choice as to how we engage or interact with our music? Or will we be happy to maintain the status quo? (not the band!). Will we want to own the tracks that we listen to, or will we be satisfied with just being able to access them when we want to? Will we want to de-clutter our gadgets of digital music in the same way that gadgets have allowed to us to de-clutter our homes of media based music? Whatever the future is for the 21st Century music industry, the one thing that seems a certainty is that the MP3 is the beginning rather than the end of the shape that it will take.


References

BBC. (2011a) London riots: Enfield fire hits Machester's music scene. [Internet] BBC, London. Available at: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-14541764> Accessed 5th October, 2011.

BBC. (2011b) Jeremy Hunt urges web firms to join anti-piracy drive. [Internet] BBC, London. Available at:  Accessed 5th October, 2011.

BBC Newsbeat. (2011) Music festivals struggling due to overcrowded market. [Internet] London, BBC. Available at: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/14446562> Accessed 5th October, 2011.

British Phonographic Institute. (2010a) The market. [Internet] London, BPI. Available at: <https://bpi.co.uk/music-business/article/the-market.aspx> Accessed 5th October, 2011.

British Phonographic Institute (2010b) Digital music nation 2010: The UK's legal and illegal digital music landscape. London, BPI.

Henderson, S. (2009) Audio-visual media. Pp. 112-132 in Moss, S. (Ed.) (2009) The entertainment industry : An introduction. Wallingford, CABI.

Hypebot. (2011) How much does a band earn from each music platform ? Uniform Notion shares the numbers. [Internet] Hypebot.com. Available at : Accessed 5th October, 2011.

Mintel Group Limited. (2011) Music and video purchasing – August 2011. London, MINTEL.

Moss, S. and Henderson, S. (2009) Music. Pp.Pp.39-58 in Moss, S. (Ed.) (2009) The entertainment industry : An introduction. Wallingford, CABI.

Performing Right Society. (2010) UK music success abroad helps drive growth, as recorded sales flatten and the live boom cools. [Internet] London, PRS. Available from: Accessed 5th October, 2011.

UK Music. (2011) Music tourists contribute at least £864m a year to the UK economy. [Internet] London, UK Music. Available at: Accessed 5th October, 2011.


Wikipedia. (2011) Digital economy act 2010. [Internet] St. Petersburg, Florida, Wikimedia Foundation. URL available from: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Economy_Act_2010> Accessed 5th October, 2011.